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These McMansions Will Be Hard To Give Away A Decade From Now

About 8 years ago I had a client on a quiet & respectable street in the suburb of Chesterfield. What struck me at the time was the number of houses all with a single road to get out of the subdivision. One visit I stopped to reset my trip odometer just to see how long it was from the main road to their house, it was over a mile and a half!

ABOVE: 1.7 miles between the subdivision entrance & the street with the client's house
ABOVE: 1.7 miles between the subdivision entrance & the street with the client’s house. Click image to view in Google Maps.

I remembered this area as I read an article about a recent study:

People who live in walkable communities are more socially engaged and trusting than those who live in less walkable areas, says a new study from the University of New Hampshire.

The study buttresses other research that has linked a neighborhood’s walkability to its residents’ quality of life, notably improved physical and mental health.

The McMansion on the large lot & 3-car garage was once desirable by many, but those days are fading. This subdivision has sidewalks, but no direct connection to each front door!

ABOVE: 4.1 mile route to "nearby" shopping
ABOVE: 4.1 mile route to “nearby” shopping. Click image to view in Google Maps

Out of curiosity I decided to run the Walk Score for this street. No surprise it got a 2 out of 100 and the label “auto-dependant”

ABOVE: A score of 2 compared to an average of 41 for Chesterfield

Half a century ago you couldn’t give away mansions in the city. They were big, drafty, and “functionally obsolete.” They lacked modern plumbing, wiring and air conditioning. A decade from now these McMansions will be obsolete. The cost to heat & cool these houses alone is enough to make them undesirable but it will be the lack of walkability that will do them in.

In contrast, my downtown address got a score of 95 – walker’s paradise. My first apartment in St. Louis (CWE) has a score of 91. My first apartment in Old North St. Louis has a “very walkable” 77. The two properties I owned in Dutchtown have a “somewhat walkable: score of 52. Must someone live in a downtown loft to have a high Walk Score? Hardly. My former office was in Kirkwood where the residential units where the former Target store was located get a 91 “walker’s paradise” score. Inner-ring suburbs often score high because they originate in days of streetcars. Ferguson MO gets an 80 and Maplewood 75, both “very walkable.” On the Illinois side of the region you have places like Belleville (80) and Edwardsville (86).

Here is how they define the levels.

walkscorelevelsAs gas prices & public transit ridership go up homes in car-deopendent areas will have little appeal. Areas that are somewhat & very walkable will be retrofitted to become more walkable. I’ve set up a calendar reminder for December 23, 2020 to revisit this issue, and this street in Chesterfield.

– Steve Patterson


Readers Skeptical About Ballpark Village

December 22, 2010 Downtown, Economy 2 Comments
ABOVE: Ballpark Village site on July 13, 2009
ABOVE: Ballpark Village site on July 13, 2009

Last week readers showed they are skeptical about the stalled Ballpark Village project that was first announced in the fall of 2006.

Q: Two of six blocks of Ballpark Village are to begin, thoughts?

  1. I’ll believe it when I see it 83 [49.4%]
  2. It is good to phase the project rather than try to do it all at once. 46 [27.38%]
  3. As long as they don’t get more tax money I don’t care 29 [17.26%]
  4. Other answer… 8 [4.76%]
  5. They should wait until it can all be done at once. 2 [1.19%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 0 [0%]

The second choice selected shows many think phasing the project is a good idea.  The “other” answers were:

  1. the only 2 blocks we’ll likely see developed
  2. We should keep the land so we have it for the “new stadium” needed in
  3. It will be better than a softball field!
  4. Crooks!!!
  5. we need an aquarium
  6. Boycott the Cards who not only welched on payroll, but also BPV!
  7. its a shell game
  8. We need a new city cemetery, why not here?

In time we will see if the Cardinals & Cordish come through.

– Steve Patterson


Poll On Missouri’s Historic Tax Credit Program

ABOVE: Buildings on North 14th renovated using tax credits
ABOVE: Buildings on North 14th renovated using tax credits

The State of Missouri is facing a budget crunch so everything is on the table, including tax credits:

“Missouri has 61 tax credit programs that waived $521 million in state income taxes last year. Costs for tax credits have increased five-fold during the past dozen years while state revenues have risen much less.” (AP via Bloomberg)

One credit that may be scaled back is the historic tax credit:

“Gov. Jay Nixon’s tax credit commission recommended Tuesday lowering Missouri’s annual cap on historic tax credits from $140 million to $75 million a year.

The commission said the reduction, which would be permanent, should cover all historic renovation activity under the program. Nearly $100 million in historic tax credits were authorized in 2010, according to the commission’s report.”  (St. Louis Business Journal)

ABOVE: Towns throughout Missouri have benefitted from the historic tax credit.  Pictured: Springfield, MO
ABOVE: Towns throughout Missouri have benefitted from the historic tax credit. Pictured: Springfield, MO

In 2010 “nearly $100 million in historic tax credits were authorized” so lowering the cap would reduced the number of projects getting renovated using the tax credit.  This is the subject of the poll this week.  I want to know how you, the readers, feel about the cap being lowered.  The poll is in the upper right corner of the blog.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Your Thoughts On The Latest Ballpark Village Announcement?

ABOVE: October 27,2006: Cardinal Senior VP Bill DeWitt III, and developers David Cordish & Chase Martin discussing the covered model of Ballpark Village.

On Friday December 3, 2010 some new news about the stalled Ballpark Village project was announced:

“Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said Friday that the long-awaited, $800 million Ballpark Village development has tenant agreements and private financing.
The first phase of the project, slated for two blocks that face the ballpark at a cost of $150 million, will have a new office tower and retail space.
St. Louis-based Stifel Financial Corp. has indicated it wants to take at least 175,000 square feet of office space at Ballpark Village. The financial services firm is currently based at 501 N. Broadway, and signed a three-year renewal on its lease there last year as Ballpark Village faced delays.”  Full Story

I’m personally glad to see they’ve decided to phase the project, rather than do it all at once.  A year ago I wrote:

As originally outlined, the project was to have nearly 800,000 total square feet and a total cost of $387 million.  The site between the garages was once again going to have Elm, thus being divided into six blocks.  That works out to $64.5 million per block – a substantial sum to raise.  The Cardinals and developer Cordish should abandon the mega project methodology by 1) creating the through street grid to form the six blocks 2) subdivide each of the six blocks into 3-10 parcels of land to be developed by them and/or sold to qualified buyers for them to build on the land.  Deed restrictions would not allow surface parking and would require minimum building heights (3-15 floors depending upon parcel).  Each block should have a minimum of two buildings.  Blank walls should be forbidden while numerous doors and windows required/encouraged.

As part of the site’s infrastructure, internal parking structures may be required to meet the total future need.  Streets, sidewalks and parking are built first and future buildings would surround the parking structures eventually.  With six blocks it would probably have 3-6 garages, ideally partially underground.  These garages could be built out in phases as lots are sold.

Other developers and investors could build within the site.  Say one group can finance $30 million for a single building, that is one more toward the goal.  Piece by piece the area would fill in.

Their phasing is different than I outlined but it still starts the ball rolling.  It also means we must watch how often their hand is out for tax incentives on top of those they already got for the stadium deal.

The poll this week asks your thoughts on the recent announcement.  The poll is in the upper right corner of the site.

– Steve Patterson


Readers Do Not Support Exempting Casinos From Smoke-Free Laws

In the poll last week readers overwhelmingly support banning smoking in casinos.

Q: Should casinos be exempt from Smoke-Free laws?

  1. No, smoke-free laws are in place to protect workers, including casino workers. 82 [62.12%]
  2. All 21+ businesses should be exempt (casinos, nightclubs, etc) 23 [17.42%]
  3. All smoking bans should be repealed, exempt everyplace! 12 [9.09%]
  4. Yes, casinos should be exempt because of their economic impact, but not bars, etc. 9 [6.82%]
  5. Other answer… 4 [3.03%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 2 [1.52%]

The four “other” answers were:

  1. NO! All public places should be smoke free.
  2. Air filtration systems to a certain safe air code.
  3. No, it’s not about workers, it’s about everybody.
  4. Casinos should be banned.

This as Illinois is considering amending it’s smoke-free law to permit smoking in casinos.

islecapegirardeaunewpromoLast week a community considering a smoke-free law, including casinos, was granted the final casino license in Missouri:

“The Missouri Gaming Commission awarded on Wednesday the state’s 13th and only available gaming license to St. Louis-based Isle of Capri Casinos, which wants to build a $125 million casino in Cape Girardeau.” (St. Louis Business Journal)

Last week I heard a radio commercial for smoke-free gambling at Harrah’s St. Louis:

“Remember that so-called “non-smoking” section tucked away in the back corner of the casino filled with the most unpopular games? Well, we’re shaking things up! In addition to our smoke friendly casino, we’ve also created the largest smoke-free casino featuring over 600 of your favorite games and tables!” (Harrah’s)

I don’t like casinos either way but the workers have no choice if they want to remain employed.

– Steve Patterson